A Good Radiohead for Business?
October 1, 2007 1:27 PM
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Radiohead to give away free download of new album
Major political alt-rockers Radiohead have a new album that is brewing a storm of interest due to its unique distribution model. The band will distribute the new album
independent of a major record label from their webpage.
Fans have two options for acquiring the new album. The first is a discbox set containing CDs, heavyweight 12” vinyls, supplementary artwork, extra tracks and booklets. This package costs 40 pounds, about $81.75 U.S., includes an on-line download, and is set to ship by December 3, 2007.
The real head-turner here is option number two: download the album at whatever price you choose. That’s right, customers are given the option to pay anywhere from zero to 99.99 GBP, the latter limited by the size of the price entry field.
The full length MP3 set will be available for download on October 10, 2007 using an activation code e-mailed to customers who choose to “purchase” the download. Customers purchasing the discbox will also be able to download the album on the tenth.
It is hard to say at this point whether this approach will prove to be a competitive business model, but it is certain to generate tremendous interest and accolades from Radiohead’s fans.
It is more difficult than one might think to argue against this model considering the nature of the Web 2.0 economy.
Many of the Internet’s most popular products, Google, Yahoo! Mail and Wikipedia, all give the majority of their content to users for free. Further more the barrier to piracy is so low that most content can be taken for free by anyone willing. Author Chris Anderson, “The Long Tail” is going to explore this topic in his next work, tentatively called “
Free: The Past and Future of a Radical Price
So what we have here is an outline of a business model for the “Brave Free World.” Embrace the fee-free zeitgeist of the web. Decriminalize the consumers who won’t pay for content. Maximize your profit by capturing the most wealthy few percentile of customers by maximizing their exposure to your core product.
In this case the core product is Radiohead, not the album. Giving away the album should greatly broaden its distribution and the exposure of wealthy consumers. They will capture the wealth of this upper crust through high value packages like the discbox, world tours, and who knows what other cool things that are worth paying for.
The only piece of the Web 2.0 business model that Radiohead’s plan is missing is embedded advertising. Given the band’s philosophies, I don’t think we will be seeing this anytime soon.
I know everyone is wondering, so I did some research and yes, entering zero for price really does work. This is not the worst thing that could happen to the band since I will pay for concert tickets to see the band, as I have before, and if the album knocks my socks off I will also pay for a hard copy of the CD.
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10/5/2007 12:47:27 PM
money is made from touring and merch, period.
Some bands don't like to tour. Portishead comes to mind as one of those. They're also heavily produced. Yet I also consider them to be quite unique, not to mention talented. I don't think that the business model should change so drastically that groups like these cannot maintain some profitability for their efforts.
Sure, I don't like Britney much either - but you have to admit, she looked pretty good in red PVC. In any case, it's not for you or eye to judge for anyone but ourselves. The artists or the rights purchasers ought to be able to maintain rights over their art.
I'm curious, would you consider the likes of JK Rowling to also be required to do tours in order to make a living with the novel itself at the mercy of counterfeiters? Or how about movie actors and their entourage have their movies act as merely a front to their Broadway performances? How about the rights of models to their images? Should the rights over the images have no protection at all so that models and their agencies can only make money from live appearances where there's a cover charge? Why is it that most people in these forums seem to think that only musicians shouldn't be afforded protection over their copyrights? Maybe drug companies shouldn't have their drugs protected if someone can synthesize the same medication, and the pharmaceuticals should have to do lecture circuits in order to earn a wage. By the way, I've seen Stallone's small yacht (I seem to recall it had only 3 floors with capacity of around 200). Well, it seemed small compared to the pharmaceutical owners boat (although I can't remember the bugger's name). Those government protected and regulated drug lords make a pretty penny I tell you.
I might not like the RIAA very much, but they're nonetheless doing something very important: letting Americans know that they can no longer steal artists' work.
Culture, society, the law need to work together to protect the distribution rights of artists in a fair way that gives control over the sale entirely to the rights holder while maintaining fair rights usage to the individual who purchases a legitimate copy. Regardless of whether or not the artist wishes to tour, they should have access to whatever business model they want and have people who want their music decide whether or not the price they're asking is worth paying for the pleasure that the music brings to them.
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